Albany Agenda

Goldman, Levine and Reynoso back new bus funding

Rep. Dan Goldman, and the Manhattan and Brooklyn borough presidents, want Hochul to include $90 million for more free buses and better service

Rep. Dan Goldman (center) speaks at a rally in support of congestion pricing on April 21, 2023.

Rep. Dan Goldman (center) speaks at a rally in support of congestion pricing on April 21, 2023. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The push to expand free and reliable bus service ahead of the formal launch of congestion pricing has gained an ally in the House of Representatives. In a letter shared exclusively with City & State, Rep. Dan Goldman, Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine and Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso call on Gov. Kathy Hochul to include $90 million in the state budget to add three new free bus routes and increase service in New York City. 

The new letter backs the campaign spearheaded by state Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris and Assembly Member Zohran Mamdani – dubbed “Get Congestion Pricing Right” – to include the funds in the upcoming state budget. “Congestion pricing will bring crucial revenue to MTA capital needs, transform NYC’s public transit system, make our streets safer and our environment cleaner – but we must work to alleviate the burdens it may place on the working-class communities we represent,” the letter reads. “As budget negotiations progress, we urge you to make this critical investment a priority.”

Half of the proposed $90 million in funding would go towards expanding the city’s free bus pilot program that launched last year from five routes to fifteen routes. State officials approved the initial funding for the pilot program, which was part of Gianaris and Mamdani’s broader “Fix the MTA” campaign, as part of last year’s budget. The pilot launched last year and currently covers one bus route per borough. According to New York City Transit President Richard Davey, ridership on those lines has increased by up to 20% since they became free.

 The other $45 million would go towards increasing the frequency of buses and improving their reliability, particularly into and out of the congestion pricing zone in midtown and downtown Manhattan. The MTA is expecting an increase in ridership once congestion pricing goes into effect, as more people forgo driving in order to avoid the toll. The letter notes that London increased its bus service by 17% before implementing its own congestion pricing program. “New York must follow suit,” the letter reads.

Both the state Senate and the Assembly included the funding in their one-house budget resolutions released earlier this month, but Hochul did not include the money in her own executive budget proposal. This week, Gianaris and Mamdani rallied with other lawmakers and rider advocates in the state Capitol. “We are asking that on the first day that congestion be implemented, that first day, New Yorkers get a bus system far better than the one they have today,” Mamdani said at the rally.